IL-14: Capitulation, "With Biometrics if Necessary"

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was in a public place, right here in St. Charles, Illinois, when I overheard a conversation that alarmed, but failed to surprise, me.  The person doing most of the talking was -talking- complaining bitterly about her new job in an area public elementary school.  Not a St. Charles school and not an educator.  She's a peripheral professional who has frequent contact with children however, and that's bad enough.

Her major complaint?  "All these Hispanic children."

According to her, not only are "all these Hispanic children" unable to communicate, they are "aggressive and obnoxiously rude - especially the girls." I was supposed to be paying attention to what the person in front of me was saying and lost some of the conversation I was overhearing, but suspect her companion must have voiced some objections, because she started trying to -explain herself- dig herself in deeper.

"Of course I don't mean it's their fault," I heard her say, "their parents must encourage this behavior and aren't disciplining them, but you can't communicate with the parents either, since most of them can't be bothered to learn English."

People shifted about, someone else approached me and greeted me, I lost track of this conversation, although I'm glad to say virtually the last part of it I heard was what seemed to be the woman's companion arguing forcefully with her.

Must be some new thing to have all these immigrants here in IL-14, since this is a newly "hot" issue here, right?  Perhaps we have some new cultural misunderstandings to deal with, right?

Eh, not so much.  When I was a child in grade school here more than forty years ago, it was my friend Lupe's non-English speaking Mom who gave me my first taco, and sent me home with a stack of hand-made tortillas, some spices, and lots of amused and kind smiles at how crazy about her version of home cooking I was.

My daughter's faculty advisor at Aurora University did her doctoral dissertation on the wave of Mexican Immigration to Aurora that began well over a hundred years ago and which has led to the simple fact that some of the oldest and most established families in our area are Latino and have been contributing to our local economy, society and culture for far longer than our recent wave of mostly lily-white upscale immigrants from Chicago.

My own Latina grand-daughters, currently in a St. Charles public elementary school, know all the Spanish they are able to pick up from watching Dora the Explorer, could join the Daughters of the American Revolution when they grow up if they chose, and in my humble opinion could better be described as sweet and outgoing than overly aggressive and obnoxiously rude.  

But, heh, their skin is kinda brown you know, and there is that Hispanic surname thing.  So, if it's expedient to whip up a little anti-brown people frenzy that may make my granddaughters (or their Spanish-speaking schoolmates, and there are quite a few, Illinois being third behind New York and California in immigration) the objects of hate in order to win an election, why let a little thing like promoting discord and possible violence stand in your way?

Obviously, it's a central strategy for Republicans.  Last Thursday Dennis Hastert endorsed Jim Oberweis, who has been the subject of much controversy because of his overly harsh attacks on immigrants in the past, with these words:

"I've looked at the candidates, I've spent a lot of time, because it's a difficult decision to make," he added. "But I thought Jim's ideas on immigration fit best with what we tried to do over a long period of time, and his ideas as far as his belief in sanctity of life, which is something I believe very strongly in. We have a lot of commonality, and that's why I'm making this endorsement today."

And that despite the fact that, as the story explains elsewhere:

Oberweis came under fire from Hastert in 2004 during a subsequent Senate primary race.

An Oberweis political ad featured the candidate in a helicopter flying over Soldier Field, claiming the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country every week could fill the stadium.

Hastert, in an interview with Chicago's WLS-TV after Thursday's announcement, explained how he had again changed his view of Oberweis, despite the ad.

"Different campaign, different time, different tone," Hastert said.

I think what Denny means by that is that the gay-bashing isn't working so much anymore and they had to pick a new victim.  So bashing immigrants is, not surprisingly to most of us who are not actually in a coma, the officially approved Republican Party establishment hate tactic for 2008.

What took me aback quite a bit more was the fact that it's seemingly not above the Democratic Party establishment to capitulate on this issue.  So, when Bill Foster is summoned to the DCCC unofficial Summer Camp to hear a video from Rahm Emanuel encouraging candidates to move to the right on immigration  he apparently took that as validation for the fact that his entire approach to immigration is lifted from Newt Gingrich.

Apparently he was quite surprised when, upon trotting out Newt's plan for a National ID Card "with biometrics if necessary" at a local Dem candidate debate, he was greeted with derision from area Dem activists.  But it did prompt him at the next debate to re-phrase his "innovative" approach as something like a worker ID card tied to a national database of people eligible to work.  Thanks for clarifying Newt's views for us Bill.

You may be asking yourself at about this point how much immigration really matters when it's entirely possible we will continue to accomplish not much one way or the other regarding the issue, and we have a war going on we need to stop.  

I've asked myself this question and have come to the conclusion that this is why this home-front capitulation matters, at least to me, and very urgently:

Elections have consequences.

And elections based in the strategy of waging war at home on minorities and specific ethnic groups and gender orientations in order to avoid talking about the wars you have caused abroad have these kinds of consequences:

WASHINGTON - Hate crime incidents in the United States rose last year by nearly 8 percent, the FBI reported Monday, as racial prejudice continued to account for more than half the reported instances.

So I think, as I am proud to say so do most of my fellow local grass-roots activists who greeted Bill Foster's position on immigration at that debate with derision and who live quite peaceably day-by-day with the almost 20% of our neighbors and families who are Latino, that it's despicable of Rahm and "the official party establishment" outside of IL-14 to try to foist their candidate off on us while encouraging him to play along with this hateful Republican game.

Those of us who actually live here prefer a candidate who is unafraid to actually call this the divisive fear-mongering that it is:

Oberweis' plan includes increased border security, a national database of legal immigrants, and a tamper-proof ID card for all foreign work and study visa holders.

But Laesch called the campaign an exercise in fear-mongering, and claimed Oberweis is attempting to distract voters from what Laesch sees as the real issues of the campaign: health care, the economy and the war in Iraq.

And he specifically criticized Oberweis' plan for an ID card, lumping it in with Democratic candidate Bill Foster's proposal for a worker identification card, which he called "more extreme."

With the special primary coming up on February 5, it only remains to be seen whether this election will serve as a bellwether not just for how Dems will do in the upcoming 2008 elections, but whether Foster burying the district in mailers and commercials and the Dem party establishment burying Foster in endorsements, will succeed and give Rahm & Co the excuse they need to justify moving right on immigration, Iraq, and other forms of capitulation, as a winning tactic for Dems come 2008.

Special elections have special - and sometimes deadly - consequences.

Cross-posted at Fireside 14, Open Left and DailyKos

Tags: Bill Foster, Dennis Hastert, House, IL-14, immigration, Jim Oberweis, John Laesch, rahm emanuel, Special Election (all tags)

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